Ralph’s and Food 4 Less in Long Beach had their doors closed and shelves empty on Saturday after Kroger insisted that it was impossible for them to operate what they called ‘underperforming stores.’
The city approved a coronavirus ‘hero pay’ ordinance in January that required retail stores and pharmacies with 300 or more workers overall, or more than 15 employees per location, to pay employees a higher wage due to the hazards of working in the midst of a pandemic.
At Kroger stores, which include Ralph’s and Food 4 Less, this meant that eligible employees received an extra $4 an hour for at least 120 days.
Kroger has closed two of its California stores, including a Ralph’s (pictured) after it was instructed to pay employees an extra $4 per hour ‘hero pay’ during the pandemic
In February, Kroger responded that it would be financially impossible to keep these ‘long-struggling’ stores open if it was required to pay the increased wages over four months.
‘The irreparable harm that will come to employees and local citizens as a direct result of the City of Long Beach’s attempt to pick winners and losers, is deeply unfortunate,’ the company said in a statement.
‘We are truly saddened that our associates and customers will ultimately be the real victims of the city council’s actions.’
Santiago Vasquez has been working at the Ralph’s part-time for about a year, told
‘I was offered to stay with the company in Huntington Beach and Seal Beach,’ he said. ‘But I’d rather just work a minimum wage job around where I live.’
In February, Kroger said that it would be financially impossible to keep these ‘long-struggling’ stores open if it was required to pay the increased wages over four months
Ralph’s and Food 4 Less had their doors closed and shelves empty on Saturday after Kroger insisted that it was impossible for them to operate what they called ‘underperforming stores.’
Before signing the ordinance in January, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia Tweeted that grocery workers ‘have been on the front lines of this pandemic and deserve this support.’ He also wrote that grocers have made record profits amid the pandemic.
Union leaders said that by closing, Kroger is only punishing workers and communities surrounding these stores, with the closures set to impact an estimated 200 workers.
Other cities in California have also approved measures requiring that companies adopt ‘hero pay’ for employees working during the pandemic.
The Long Beach Food 4 Less, which is also owned by the Kroger retail chain, shut its doors on Saturday, just a few weeks after the ‘hero pay’ ordinance was issued
There have been several protests about the ‘hero pay’ ordinance, with participating union members, residents, community activists and employees registering their disagreement
In March, Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance that requires companies to pay an additional $5 per hour to their non-managerial employees.
The California Grocers Association was among those opposing ‘hero pay’, claiming that the extra pay mandates will harm customers and workers without doing anything to boost their safety.
Just over a year ago, Kroger announced that it would introduce a ‘hero bonus’ as a thank you to all of its employees working on the coronavirus frontline, but this was just $2 an hour.
The nation’s biggest independent grocer gave the extra pay to staff in their stores, as well as those working as part of the supply chain, in manufacturing, and in pharmacies and call centers for shifts between March 29 and April 18 2020.